Some small market towns are like the "wild west" because extended pub opening hours are stretching police resources to the limit, according to one senior police representative.
However, representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Police Federation said the overall effect of the Licensing Act on crime and disorder has been "very neutral" with "no major spike in crime".
Simon Reed, vice chairman of the Police Federation, told the Culture, Media and Sport select committee inquiry into the Licensing Act that later opening hours had effectively created two closing times — one at around 11pm and one from 2am that could last until 6am.
He said police were "really stretched" and this was causing problems with shift patterns the following day, especially if towns were hosting football matches at the weekend too. "At times small market towns can be like the wild west," he said.
ACPO also voiced concerns over how long it takes to shut a premises after calling for a review. It estimated an average time of six to eight weeks for the review to be heard, in which time the premises could remain open. If it appealed, it could stay open for a further six weeks.
Officers rejected calls from one committee MP to raise the drinking age to 21. "What we need to do is get people to drink responsibly," said ACPO's Simon O'Brien. "At 18, people have reached an adult age and are able to make adult decisions."
He added that it may be an idea for local retailers to form voluntary agreements to not stock high alcoholic strength products.